@ average_joe I just looked through your chart again in post #1 and you write that GR8 is smoother than Shure SE530. That is not true. It may be more coherent, but definitely not smoother. In fact, I have yet to hear a headphone that has a more liquid presentation than SE530.
Please put me on the list of supporters for the top-tier status of SE530, e-Q7, UM3X, Westone 3, Triple.fi and IE8.
I think they are all top-tier, although I still think Shure SE530 has the best sound quality for a universal. It has the best mids, the best soundstage and dynamics, and the most realistic overall presentation of any IEM I've heard to date. e-Q7 and UM3X are in second place with Westone 3, Triple.fi and IE8 (in no particular order) further behind IMO.
Also, I would like you to add RE0 to your list of IEMs that are close to being top tier. In fact, out of my Audigy 2 ZS with kxProject drivers and Foobar 2000, I almost feel like RE0 sounds better than the e-Q7. RE0 requires a very good source and amp to reveal its full potential and is also sensitive to fit and tip choice. For instance, with the stock large bi-flange tips, RE0 becomes very bassy with an aggressive upper treble emphasis - great for rock music as well as for use with underpowered neutral sources. But put on the stock single flange tips and you've got a completely different animal - the powerful, tight bass is gone and is replaced by a slightly bloated low end that is missing the lowest registers, the mids suddenly come forward and almost sound in your face, while the upper mids/low treble moves to the background. I think that the stock single flanges ruin the sound of the RE0, especially in the bass region. I currently use mine with UE single flanges and they fit much better in my ears than the stock single flange tips and make the RE0 sound much tighter in the bass and with a more laid back midrange.
RE0 has the best treble and arguably the best tonal balance of any IEM I've heard to date. But that was not my experience with them out of the box, My pair had some very noticeable peaks in the treble region around 12 kHz and 14 kHz. It also had a weak, somewhat sloppy bass, even with the stock dual flanges and UE tips. After some simple modding and lots of burin in however, I was able to eliminate these issues. To improve bass response, I took out the yellow foam inside the nozzle and put it back in such a way so that there is some space left between the foam and the driver. This allows the driver to pump more air and noticeably tightens the bass. I also squeezed the foam into the nozzle a little harder which helped to smooth out the treble (burn in took care of any peaks still present after the mod). Now my RE0 sounds very neutral with accurate, tight bass.